When it comes to member recruitment and retention, we know it’s all about how to get members to come and stay. We are continuously reevaluating, revamping, or expanding our member benefit offerings for our clients, right down to customization by audience type based on interests, or generation. Add to that the integration of technology (association management systems, etc.) and this combination can be quite an overwhelming challenge. All of these things combined make for a rather complex conglomerate of moving parts and pieces, but if we take a look at the commonalities between them, we can simplify things a bit. Take a close look and you’ll see that what lies at their core is one key element, and that my friends, is member engagement.
The quality and quantity of connectivity we have between ourselves, our members, and our potential members is crucial in establishing, maintaining, and growing a membership base that will not only keep your organization in business, but sustain your future existence.
As a first step, it’s important to measure your association’s levels of engagement to determine areas of membership that need attention (event attendance, email open/click rates, etc.). Although there are many useful high-tech member management software systems available to help you accomplish this, here are a few inexpensive ways to gauge this data yourself:
• Conduct a member satisfaction survey – Make sure it encompasses the opportunity to indicate overall membership satisfaction, and break that down into more detailed segments (publications, events, volunteering, etc.). Ask questions like: What services are you using? What services haven’t you used? For these, list a number of options for them to check, but also leave a comment section for them to write other options. What would you like to see us do? To conduct your survey, you can use something like Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) for free. Although the free version should do it, upgraded membership does allow you to access to more features. Your ambassadors are a great resource for promoting member engagement. As your ambassadors make retention calls, have them ask these survey questions and engage your members for answers. This is a great way to get honest feedback!
• Collect and examine feedback – Go through your social media comments and/or review recent results from surveys conducted after meetings, webinars, and educational events. Establish categories and subcategories to record findings in each area you want to analyze and get an excel spreadsheet going. This can be used to generate a report for your board to help support your proposed improvement initiatives.
• Take advantage of analytical technologies already in place – Take a look at any analytical information provided through your web host and social media pages. These provide a variety of information related to your visitors.
Once you have a better understanding of your member engagement level, you may begin to devise a plan to improve any areas which may be lacking in member participation and interest. This is your opportunity to customize the member experience in an effort to improve the member/association relationship. Here are some ways associations are doing just that:
• Create/expand your onboarding plan – Using a personal touch alongside a customized strategic approach when welcoming potential new members is as important as following up with them periodically regarding feedback about their membership experience. This in itself can provide your organization with yet another engagement assessment tool.
• Recruit ambassadors – Periodically turn to your members for things staff is usually responsible for such as communications, hosting meetings, and event planning. When a member authors content, facilitates a meeting, etc., it is recognized by their peers and creates an environment where peer to peer respect and motivation is eminent. Ambassadors are a great tool to reach out to your members. Ambassadors are engaged members of your organization that volunteer their time to reach out to members on your behalf.
• Implement a task force – One of our favorite ways to engage members is by inviting them to join a task force. It is very little time commitment from the member, as opposed to committing to a year-long committee that meets monthly or quarterly… making participation even easier. A one-day “Visioning and Strategic Discussion Task Force” allows them to be involved in the direction your organization is going, creating buy-in from your member. A “Marketing & Communications Task Force” allows them to engage and look at the messaging strategy of the organization, and more. These task forces allow members to feel like they have really engaged and, as a result, they become champions for the organization.
• Create a quarterly touch program – Your members want to hear from you! If they don’t utilize the benefits listed on your website, and have never attended a single event, what is going to incent them to renew? Using ambassadors and staff, you can reach out with a personal touch via email, phone call, or text once a quarter. We recommend at least one be a personal phone call. Another great touch point is to send a stat page of your members’ activity from your website, to inform them they are receiving benefits that they may not even know about!
• Segment member communications – Outside of separating communications for active vs. non-active members, consider breaking these communications down by target audience like persona (division by interests/age groups), or activity (event attendance history).
• Reinforce your value proposition – Market it according to the appropriate section of your member/potential member base.
• Implement more online opportunities – Create and offer opportunities for increased/improved online and mobile interaction for your social media pages and website. Ensure your member portals are user-friendly and provide self-management tools for users so they may edit profiles, sign up for events, renew memberships, interact with your organization and with each other.
• Make the most out of events – Surprise and delight attendees with things that make them feel appreciated and important. Offering freebies and discounts is a great way to create or improve upon their engagement and it will help create a buzz about the amazing things your conferences and meetings have to offer.
• Utilize incentives to gain volunteers and members – Ask members to refer friends to join or to bring a friend to a volunteer event. Offering a little something in exchange for their help can encourage them to engage in helping you onboard new people.
• Highlight member achievements through recognition – Shine a spotlight on members and volunteers for their accomplishments with award and recognition programs such as member/volunteer of the week/month/year. This can be recognized in newsletters, on social media, and at events, eliminating additional costs to your organization.
It’s no secret that individuals spend their money and invest their time in what interests them and coincides most closely with their personal values and belief systems. Just take a look at your most involved and engaged members and you’ll find their involvement is due to their belief in the organization’s mission and purpose, their satisfaction with member benefits, and their experience-based relationship with your organization.
If you need guidance or hands-on assistance creating an ambassador program, conducting your customer satisfaction survey, analyzing the results, and devising a strategic plan to improve your member engagement, give us a call. We know the ins and outs of proven engagement strategies. When you have questions, we have answers. We are The Solution!